Griffintown consultations expose conflicting visions
Published Friday, January 20, 2012 6:37PM EST
MONTREAL - The upcoming redevelopment of the long-neglected Griffintown neighbourhood south of Montreal is attracting more critics.
The city held hearings Friday and not only were the visions for the neighbourhood criticized, the very idea of holding a symposium now was subject to attack.
"I don't know why the city's having a consultation now when most of the property's been spoken for," said veteran preservationist Phyllis Lambert, who runs the Canadian Centre for Architecture. "It's not proper planning. You have to plan the whole thing to begin with and then go ahead and discuss with people."
The longtime tight-knit community just south of Montreal is known to local lore as a hardscrabble breeding ground for boxers, politicians and priests.
The area was largely abandoned after it was rezoned industrial during the Drapeau years. Its church closed and the residents moved further out where housing was more spacious.
A massive $1.3 billion rebuild of Griffintown proposed in 2008 fell through when developer Devimco bailed due to lack of funding.
Some point out that some proposed 20-storey towers would block the view of downtown, one of the more impressive features of the area.
Others worry that new plans would further eradicate the scant supply of green space available to residents.
"Incorporating the use of green space and always leaving access to the canal as well: that's what we're hoping to see," said Shea Mayer Tour Guide.
Politicians listened to suggestions in the hopes of coming up with a plan that would click.
"The goal is that is to make sure those issues are answered and then that we find solution and a large principle that will guide redevelopment of the whole Griffintown area," Veronique Fournier of the Southwest Borough.
Another Griffintown entrepreneur said that the politicians have indeed been listening, up to now at least.
"I think that the city is taking a very responsible approach with this event here today and in being very careful about how this is going to be done," said Allan Diamond of the Montreal Art Centre.
Others institutions in The Griff remain uncertain about their future.
One woman worried that her popular waterside volleyball court might be demolished for more condos.
"They've approved development on either side of us so every year we keep our fingers crossed," said Rachelle Salamon of the Montreal Sport and Social Club.
Only a few residents survived the decades of demolitions that saw triplexes replaced by warehouses and one head count from 2007 pegged the population of the area at under 50.
The population has sprung upwards with the building of condos and a large dorm for the ETS Engineering School.
One resident worries that the proposed plans for the area would leave it without many essential amenities for urban life.
"There's not one space where they have for a school, there's not one space that they have for recreation, there's not a skating rink planned, there's not a children's park planned there's not a swimming pool planned, there's nothing planned by the city," said Griffintown resident Harvey Lev.
"We have no tramway, we have no new streets fixed, again no parks, no schools, no plans for them," he said. "We don't need 20 storey buildings in Montreal but that what we're getting and so it's not going to be a place for people to walk."
The public is invited to more hearings Saturday at the ETS building on Peel and Notre Dame.